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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Dog Day Afternoon can be found here.
Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) wants to get money to pay for 'wife' Leon Schermer's (Chris Sarandon) sex change operation, so he decides to rob the First Savings Bank of Brooklyn (New York). Things couldn't go more wrong. One problem after another arises, and the robbery turns into a media circus.
Dog Day Afternoon was inspired by 'The Boys in the Bank', an article by American writer P.F. Kluge that was published in the September 1972 issue of Life Magazine. It describes the similar robbery of a Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Brooklyn, New York on August 22, 1972 by two thieves...John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturale. The screenplay for the movie was written by American screenwriter and director, Frank Pierson. It was subsequently novelized by American crime writer, Leslie Waller [1923-2007] under the pseudonym Patrick Mann.
The phrase dog days refers to the hot, sultry days of summer (July and August in the Northern hemisphere and January and Februrary in the Southern hemisphere). The name comes from the ancient Roman dies caniculares, which was associated with the 'dog star' Sirius (so named because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major [Large Dog]). The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. In modern times, the term refers to those hot, sleepy afternoons when dogs (and people) prefer to lay around and languish in the summer heat.
This was left unanswered in the movie. Viewers have suggested several possibilities, i.e., (1) The man who saw the smoke detected odd body language by the bank manager, (2) Jenny (Carol Kane), who spoke to her boyfriend on the phone, may have used a code word or phrase to tip him off that something was wrong, or (3) the manager or one of the tellers was able to secretly activate a silent alarm.
Sonny successfully ushers Sal and the hostages into the airline limousine. After warning Sal to keep his gun pointed up lest they hit a bump and it goes off, Agent Murphy (Lance Henriksen) drives them to the Kennedy airport where a jet is waiting to take them to Algeria. As their plane taxis towards them, Sonny releases another hostage, Maria (Amy Levitt), as promised. Before she leaves the group, Maria hands Sal her rosary so that he won't be afraid on his first airplane trip. Agent Sheldon (James Broderick) approaches the limo and asks if they're ready to board. As Murphy reminds Sal to keep his weapon pointed up, Sheldon suddenly reaches in the window and makes a grab for Sonny's gun. At the same time, Murphy grabs a gun hidden in the armrest and shoots Sal between the eyes. The hostages are released and taken to the terminal, and Sonny is arrested. In the final scene, Sonny watches incredulously as Sal's body is laid on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance. A postscript then appears, telling the audience: 'Sonny Wortzik is serving twenty years in federal prison. Angie Wortzik lives with her children on welfare. Leon Schermer is now a woman and living in New York City.'
The Chase Manhattan Bank that was the scene of the actual robbery on August 22, 1972 was located at the corner of Avenue P and East 3rd Street in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. Today, it houses the Brooklyn Medical Imaging Center. Exterior shots for the movie were at 285 Prospect Park West between 17th and 18th Street in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood of Brooklyn. These two locations are approximately 4 miles away from each other.
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